Enlarge (credit: US Air Force)
The last of the gunfighters will not be hanging up its holster anytime soon. While the Trump administration has been playing Let’s Make a Deal with Lockheed Martin and Boeing over the future of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Department of Defense has decided to extend the life of yet another old warhorse to fill the gap.

At least 300 F-16 Fighting Falcons will receive structural and avionics upgrades that will allow them to fly until at least 2048, thanks to a Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) with Lockheed Martin.
Obama administration had already made plans for the A-10 Thunderbolt to stay in service until 2022 to fill the close air support role, and had plotted an upgrade to the F-16 as well since 2012.

But the task of pulling the trigger on the F-16 upgrade was left to the Trump administration. “Following F-16 Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) structural modifications, the US Air Force could safely operate [F-16C and D] Block 40-52 aircraft to 2048 and beyond,” Air Force officials said in a release.
The F-16 was a product of a push by a group of analysts within the Air Force known as the “Fighter Mafia” for a lightweight fighter—a counterpart to the F-15 Eagle in what was referred to as a “high-low mix” (with the expensive, high-tech F-15 being the “high”).

The F-16 was the  winner of a “fly-before-buy” bake-off—an approach to procurement that many critics of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter may be nostalgic for.
Read 6 remaining paragraphs

Leave a Reply